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Judge Releases Medical Marijuana Patient Arrested In BC Hospital

Associated Press, Oct. 13, 2005

by Gene Johnson, AP

SEATTLE A U.S. Army veteran who fled to Canada to avoid prosecution because he grew marijuana to help control chronic pain was yanked from a hospital by Canadian authorities, driven to the U.S. border with a catheter still attached, and turned over to U.S. officials who provided him with no medical treatment for five days, his lawyer said.

Steven William Tuck, 38, was still fitted with the urinary catheter when he shuffled into U.S. District Court for a detention hearing Wednesday, said his lawyer, Douglas Hiatt.

U.S. Magistrate Judge James P. Donohue ordered Tuck temporarily released so that Hiatt and Sunil Aggarwal, the president of Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility, could take him to Harborview Medical Center for treatment.

"The guy comes into the jail with a catheter ..., you'd think they'd do something about it!" Hiatt said, launching into a profanity-laced tirade after the hearing. "This is totally inhumane. He's been tortured for days for no reason."

Tuck is a veteran who said he suffered debilitating injuries in the late 1980s, when his parachute failed to open during a jump. He spent a year at Walter Reed Army Medical Center undergoing operations to fuse discs in his back, Hiatt said. His injuries were exacerbated in a car crash that killed his brother-in-law in 1990; over the years, he has had more than a dozen surgeries, his friends said.

In 2001, he was living in McKinleyville, Calif., when his marijuana growing operation was raided for the second time. He fled to British Columbia to avoid prosecution, and sought asylum status, which was recently denied.

Last Friday, he checked himself in to St. Paul's Hospital in Vancouver, British Columbia, because he had a cyst on his prostate and was having difficulty urinating, Hiatt said.

In a phone interview from Vancouver, Richard Cowan, a friend of Tuck's who runs the Web site, said he was with Tuck at the hospital when Canadian authorities arrived and arrested Tuck on a departure order.

"I would not believe it unless I had seen it," Cowan said. "They sent people in to arrest him while he was on a gurney. They took him out of the hospital in handcuffs, put him in an SUV, and drove him to the border."

He was turned over to Whatcom County Jail officials, who, after being flooded with phone calls from activists, called federal marshals from Seattle to pick him up. The marshals brought him to the King County Jail in downtown Seattle.

Though Tuck had taken morphine as prescribed by doctors for about 16 years to help with his pain, he was given no painkiller or treatment at the jail other than ibuprofen, Hiatt said. Tuck, who appeared emaciated as he cried in court Wednesday, has been sick from the morphine withdrawal, Hiatt said.

A message left with the public relations officers at the King County Jail was not immediately returned Wednesday, and a spokesman with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Vancouver said he could not immediately comment on the case.

Tuck is charged federally with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution. Donohue released him on the condition that he face the charge in the Northern District of California upon his release from the hospital. The U.S. attorney's office in Seattle did not oppose his release.

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